AS CELEBRATED IN BOCAS DEL TORO, PANAMA
I arrived in Bocas del Toro on Monday, just in time for the last two nights of Carnaval. This is definitely not New Orleans nor is it Rio. Bocas is an archipelago of several islands just off the Panamanian mainland. The main island contains the airport and “Bocas Town” a funky laid back place that is both touristy and has managed to escape the modern building craze of so many similar island communities.
I checked into Hostel Heike which was described as a laid back quiet place. Perhaps that is often true but such was not to be the case. A massive stage was set up in the street just outside the place with an equally massive sound system playing rather bad raeggaton at a volume that would make a Deadhead cringe in pain.
Always one to try and make the best of a situation, I settled in and promptly went off to explore the town. Carnaval was definitely in the air. Makeshift beer gardens and makers of streetfood were aplenty. A carnival tradition, the tanker to hose down and cool off the crowd was in action.
As afternoon transitioned to evening a dozen or more men dressed as devils came out with homemade whips with which they attacked people in the crowd, many of whom rushed up to get whipped. The significance of this continues to escape me.
The “merriment” went on until around 4:00 a.m. At times there were some really good drummers and even a fairly decent band or two. The live music, however, subsided around 1:00 and after that it was back to ear-shattering raeggaton. By then, I was in bed, but even with earplugs and a pillow over each ear, the volume was way over the top; sleep was not an option!
What to do? Well in the morning a hired a boat to take me to Cayo Zapatilla a small outer island and part of the biodiverse Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park.
Well, several hours of swimming, beachcombing and a picnic did much to restore my sanity. After lunch I took another hike into the interior of this small island and found these really cool wooden windchimes. The longest are about six feet tall.
Were these made by some island tribe lost to history? More likely, they were created by a park ranger with plenty of time on his hands. Well, tonight is the last night of Carnaval. I believe that traditionally, Carnaval ends at Midnight when Fat Tuesday turns to Ash Wednesday.Tweet